It all began on March 19, 1931, when Gov. Fred Balzar signed a bill that legalized gaming in Nevada. Since that day, Nevada, and especially Las Vegas, has become recognized worldwide as a premier gaming destination.
From traditional card and dice games, to slot machines and race and sports book betting, the casino industry has flourished and evolved into an international phenomenon. Now, more than 75 years later, Nevada celebrates the very industry that has supported economic growth in the state.
Las Vegas has come a long way from its first legalized gaming establishment, Northern Club on Fremont Street, in 1931. Owned by Mayme Stocker and her family, the Northern Club and others like it on the infamous Block 16 in downtown Las Vegas pumped $69,000 into the state coffers during their first two years of operation. In 2008, gaming revenue in Clark County alone totaled more than $9.7 billion.
In the early 1940s, Thomas Hull selected a plot along the two-lane highway that led to Los Angeles as the site for the El Rancho. His themed resort — the first in Las Vegas — would become the first hotel along what is now known as the Strip. Five years later, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel would open his lavish Flamingo Hotel, ushering in the era of celebrity glitz in Las Vegas. Some of the world-famous entertainers who became synonymous with Las Vegas included the Rat Pack, Elvis and Liberace.
Further development occurred in the late 1960s when business, aviation and movie mogul Howard Hughes introduced corporate financing to the Las Vegas resort landscape. In 1989, Steve Wynn opened The Mirage, the first of many mega-resorts now lining the Las Vegas Strip. Today, gaming is still the centerpiece of Las Vegas, one of the world’s most desirable destinations.
As if the resorts and casinos weren’t seductive enough, Las Vegas is putting a new spin on gaming, making it sexier and more exciting than ever before. The latest trend is the emergence of intimate, themed casinos within a casino. Playboy Enterprises, the Palms and N9NE Group opened Las Vegas’ first Playboy Club atop the Fantasy Tower at the Palms. The club and casino showcase the iconic Playboy bunnies dealing high-limit table games, as well as a Diamond Bar built out of 10,000 diamond-shaped crystals.
While slot machines are the runaway favorite among gamblers in Las Vegas, table games have seen new additions and a tremendous resurgence in the popularity of poker. Some of the newer games, such as three-card poker, and timeless favorites like pai gow continue to draw people to the tables.